Monday, 31 March 2014

Prince of Darkness (John Carpenter, 1987)

This ultimate lo-fi, high-concept horror movie pitches quantum theory, nightmarish alternate history and religious conspiracy and blends them up with zombie movie and siege thriller tropes.  The result is served John Carpenter-style; efficient, witty, smart and scary.

With a cast of instantly-recognisable Carpenter alumni, and the first beats of a non-stop doomy-yet-funky synthesised soundtrack our amiable cast is thrown headlong into sanity-breaking horror.

Astronomical anomaly and zoological upset signify the coming of great change. Soon supernatural phenomena manifests, and ancient past and near-future collide to threaten existence, all from the basement of run-down Los Angeles church. Our scientists reluctantly, unbelievably forced into battling the monstrous unknown, insidiously hidden from recorded history.

Prince of Darkness is filled with memorable moments and skilful set pieces that disgust, disturb and despair.

A possessed linguist mindlessly types portents of doom on her computer keyboard.

A terrifying vision of apocalypse is sent back in time, barely decipherable to sleeping scientists.

A mutilated corpse delivers a chilling message, before crumbling into insect debris.

A scientist cuts his own throat rather than succumb to demonic control.

A Lovecraftian sense of doom and despair permeates the film, as we move from set piece to set piece, our sense of unease, of cosmic irrelevance growing. Rational, understandable science becomes tenuous; concepts such as quantum physics and anti-matter are used to muddy the waters between science and supernatural. “Our logic collapses on the subatomic level into ghosts and shadows.”

Richly evocative, achieving much with very little, Carpenter's perfect editing, coupled with the wildly imaginative, speculative nature of the storyline provides a truly unique piece of horror fiction. Hugely memorable, Prince of Darkness is designed to niggle and gnaw at the viewer, to unsettle their feelings of safety and comfort, and is remarkably successful in doing so, with minimal gore and spectacle. 

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